NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The New Rochelle Board of Education has completely ignored recommendations from a transportation consultant to make school district transportation policy more fair for parents, safer to students and more efficient to protect taxpayers.
All existing Transportation Policies were first adopted in 1998; some were subsequently updated. No transportation policies have been updated since 2012.
An 80-page Student Transportation Efficiency Study was delivered by Louis J. Boffardi of Transportation Advisory Services to the District in October 2015 and presented to the New Rochelle Board of Education in executive session soon thereafter. The report was never released to the public. Although a recent Freedom of Information request by Talk of the Sound has yet to be acknowledged, we obtained a copy of the Study through an anonymous source.
The Board has failed to make any changes to existing policies or add new policies since the TAS Study was delivered in 2015. In other words, all of the policy additions and changes recommended by TAS have been ignored.
TAS Recommendations for Changes to Existing Board Policies:
3610 – Transportation (Adopted July 1, 1988; Last Revised April 3, 2012)
The Director of Transportation, under the supervision of Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administration, shall be responsible for the School District transportation program. All details of the program shall be monitored continuously to provide an efficient, economical program while maintaining the safety of the student riders as a prime consideration. All contracted buses with capacities for twelve (12) or more passengers shall be outfitted with seat restraints. Use of such restraints is recommended and the student riders shall be instructed in their use. School bus routes and bus stops shall be arranged to promote maximum efficiency and economy while maintaining the safety of pupils. Door-to-door transportation is not provided. Free transportation is provided for public and non‑public school students in kindergarten through grade five who reside within the boundaries of the School District and more than one and one-half miles but not more than ten miles from the school they attend. Non-public school kindergarten students must be eligible to enroll in a District kindergarten in order to be eligible for transportation. Free transportation is provided for children attending the Barnard Magnet pre-kindergarten program who reside within the boundaries of the School District and more than one and one-half miles but not more than ten miles from the school. Parents of a student attending the non‑public schools to which transportation is supplied must apply annually for this transportation. Applications must be received by April 1st of the preceding school year. New residents have thirty days after establishing residency in which to apply. Public and non‑public school students in grades six through twelve who reside within the boundaries of the School District and more than one and a half miles from the school they attend are provided with fare subsidization for the public transit within the boundaries of New Rochelle. Students classified by the District Committee on Special Education are transported to the school or program to which they are assigned by the Committee. Students classified by the District Committee on Special Education as having a physical or mental handicapping. Door-to-door transportation is provided to/from schools located within or outside of the New Rochelle City School District located no further than fifty miles from their home. Distances greater than fifty miles must be approved by the State Education Department. Only District authorized personnel, approved transportation pupils, bus drivers, bus monitors, and school officials are permitted to board school buses. Bus drivers are authorized to stop only at established bus stops except in emergency situations.
TAS noted that by limiting the eligibility for transportation services to students who live a mile-and-a-half or more from their school of attendance and not providing transportation services to schools beyond ten miles from the student’s home, the number of transportation eligible students is low.
TAS recommended revising 3610 to explictly state bus stop policies, the establishment of child safety zones, and transportation requirements for pre-school and kindergarten students.
Bus Stop Walking Distance
“The New York State Education Department has consistently stated that the walking distance to a bus stop can be no more than the maximum walking distance from a student’s home or child care location to the student’s school of attendance. Based on 3610, this means a student can be required to walk a maximum of one-and-a-half miles to a bus stop.”
Student Behavior at Bus Stops
“The School District should make it very clear that student behavior at a bus stop is the responsibility of the parent and not the School District.”
“Just about every school district has a Policy statement or an Administrative Regulation that states children in certain primary school grades who are transported from school are to be released from the school bus only to a responsible adult or to be released in a specific manner. Currently, the School District’s practice is to pick-up/drop-off pre-school students at mid-day at the home or child care location. In the morning and in the afternoon these students are picked-up/dropped-off at a bus stop. Kindergarten students are dropped-off in the afternoon at the home or child care location. The recommendation is that this practice be reviewed, and whatever is decided, it is to be formalized in Policy or an Administrative Regulation.”
3630 – Educational Field Trips (Adopted July 1, 1988; Last Revised (never))
Transportation for educational field trips in connection with the instructional school program shall be provided if the field trips are approved by the appropriate Assistant Superintendent in conjunction with the appropriate school principal both of whom have deemed such trips to be of educational value. No student shall participate in the field trip unless prior written parental consent has first been obtained and the student’s disciplinary record warrants such participation. Each bus must carry a person(s) who has been approved by the school principal and who is responsible for the supervision of student passengers.
TAS recommended revising 3630 to include the recommended State Education Department guidelines for the use of such charter buses.
Several recent charter bus accidents involving fatalities have caused many school districts to examine their procedures to charter bus trips. If requested by the school district, the Division of Program Regulation of the Department of Motor Vehicles will provide factual information regarding the compliance and qualification status of the motor carrier and bus driver. The information will assist districts in its choice of a motor carrier and help avoid:
- Booking charter trips with bus companies that were not in compliance with Article 19A of the Vehicle and Traffic Law or were currently under suspension:
- Assigning a driver with a less than clean driving record to the district’s charter trip; and
- Assigning a not-qualified or unreported driver to the district’s charter trip.
- The following are suggested guidelines districts may wish to use in screening motor carriers and drivers to be used for charter trips.
BEFORE BOOKING A CHARTER TRIP:
- Ask the prospective bus company if it is in compliance with Article 19A (intrastate) and federal Department of Transportation regulations (interstate).
- Require the bus company to provide three or four names and a recent driver license abstract for a “pool” of drivers that can be assigned to your charter trip.
- Be sure the drivers are “school bus qualified” (fingerprinted and criminal history cleared) as required by Section 509 of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law.
- Review each of the prospective driver’s Article 19A files.
- Contact the Bus Driver Certification Unit of the Department of Motor Vehicles to request the compliance status of the bus company and the driver qualification status of each of the prospective drivers. Allow adequate time to enable the Bus Driver Certification Unit to transmit its findings to you.
- Check with the New York State Department of Transportation regarding the bus company’s equipment and maintenance record.
- Develop guidelines and protocols the adult chaperone/school official assigned to the trip will follow both before starting out and during the trip. This individual must be authorized to take definite steps to ensure the safe transportation of the children, including terminating the trip if the condition of the equipment or the driver (fatigue, speeding, etc.) pose a significant threat to the safety of the children.
ON THE DAY OF THE TRIP – BEFORE STARTING OUT:
The chaperone/teacher/school official assigned to oversee the trip should:
- Verify the identity of the driver by requesting to see the driver’s license. This will ensure that only drivers you have already checked through the Bus Driver Certification Unit actually show up to drive the trip:
- Evaluate the condition of the vehicle (properly inspected and appears to be in safe operating condition);
- Evaluate the condition of the driver (not fatigued, etc.); and
- Repeat steps B and C each day of the trip.
ON THE ROAD – DURING THE TRIP:
The chaperone/teacher/school official assigned to oversee the trip should:
- Monitor the driver’s driving performance (speed, safe lane changes, proper following distance etc.);
- Monitor the driver’s physical condition, particularly on long trips, to ensure the driver is not fatigued; and
- Take decisive action to eliminate any threats to safe operation of the bus (request/require the driver to slow down, pull over at rest stop or exit).
AT THE END OF THE TRIP:
Send a written report detailing any safety concerns that came about during the trip to the school official responsible for booking charter trips.
3640 – Cooperative Transportation (Adopted July 1, 1988; Last Revised (never))
In an effort to minimize the cost of transportation to special schools, the District shall, when feasible, participate with neighboring districts in cooperative transportation programs.
TAS notes that school districts “cannot participate with a neighboring school district who also utilizes contracted transportation services unless there is a joint/cooperative Bid/RFP for the cooperative transportation service. The lack of a cooperative Bid/RFP is called “piggybacking”, and it is not permitted by the State Education Department.
TAS addressed improper, ineffective and illegal RFPs in a separate report delivered in January 2016 which will be the subject of a future article which will be linked here once published.
3680 – Bus Driver Qualifications (Adopted July 1, 1988; Last Revised (never))
Any person operating a vehicle engaged in the transportation of pupils for the City School District of New Rochelle must meet the qualification standards set forth in New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 19A and New York State Motor Vehicle and Traffic Law 509.
TAS recommends there should also be School District qualifications for attendants/monitors.
“Since the Policy was written in 1988, the State Education Department has required specific qualifications for people holding these positions. The Policy should include requirements for bus drivers and attendants/monitors as well as specific local requirements for bus drivers and attendants transporting special education students.”
“Local requirements can include student/child behavior management, epi-pen administration, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), child abuse recognition and reporting requirements, crisis prevention intervention (CPI), first aid, handling specialized/assistive equipment, physical examinations for attendants/monitors, training in the use of a student’s educational records and in the responsibility to ensure the privacy of the student and his/her records, etc.”
3685 – Liability Insurance for School Bus Transportation Companies (Adopted July 1, 1988; Last Revised (never))
School bus transportation companies with whom the City School District of New Rochelle contracts must secure and maintain at all times at least five million dollars ($5,000,000) in liability insurance. Copies of the certificate of insurance must be on file with the Assistant Superintendent for Business.
TAS recommends school bus transportation companies should have the liability insurance extended to $10 million.
“The School District should have its requirements for the amount of liability insurance by its school transportation contractor(s) reviewed and updated by its insurance consultant. TAS generally recommends a Liability limit of $10,000,000.00 for each accident for bodily injury and property damage with no endorsements reducing or limiting coverage unless approved beforehand by the School District. We also recommend Commercial General Liability (CGL) with limits of at least$1,000,000 per occurrence / $3,000,000 aggregate to apply per location. Coverage is to be for bodily injury, property damage, products/completed operation, personal injury, and advertising injury. The CGL insurance is to include coverage for sexual misconduct.”
TAS Recommendations to Create New Board Policies
TAS identified a number of areas where there are practices but no policies that authorize those practices.
“Policy statements/requirements should exist for transportation services to/from child care locations; religious instruction locations, if the School District wishes to continue this practice; bus stop reviews; temporary transportation services to locations other than child care locations; and music instruments as well as sports equipment on buses.”
Transportation to Religious Instruction
“Another concern about the transportation program is the appropriateness and the questionable legality of the afternoon transportation service to locations for religious instruction. It appears that this is done two days a week. Unlike transportation services to/from child care locations, there is no specific legislation or regulation allowing this practice. However, in Question 48:29 on page 545 of the question-and-answer format of the SCHOOL LAW Handbook, 35th Edition, published by the New York State School Boards Association, the following appears:
48:29 Must school district transport students to and from released time religious instruction?
No. School districts have no authority to transport students released for religious instruction to and from a church or parochial school where the religious instruction is held (Appeal of Fitch, 2 ED Dept Rep 394 (1963); see also Appeal of Santicola, 37 Ed Dept Rep 79 (1997)). However, a district may lease school buses to a not-for-profit released time instruction provider to transport public school students to and from released time religious instruction facilities (St. James Church v. Bd. of Educ. of the Cazenovia CSD, 163 Misc.2d 471(Sup. Ct. Madison Cnty. 1994)).
The School District should check with its legal counsel, and possibly with the State Education Department, as to whether the above Commissioner’s decision, which applies to transportation for students released for religious instruction, is applicable to transportation for religious instruction in lieu of transportation home or to a child care location.”
“The School District requires the submission of an application for transportation to child care locations and for religious instruction.
- The portion of the application form that deals with transportation to child care locations is quite specific and consistent with law/regulation, the School District’s transportation policy, and the practice of many other school districts.
- The top left hand paragraph on the reverse of the application states “The State law on childcare providers does not apply to after school religious instruction.” The question is then, “What law or regulation does apply to transportation services for religious instruction?”
Inequity between types of after-school transportation
“Students requesting transportation for religious instruction appear to have a benefit that children receiving transportation to child care locations do not.”
“Mileage limitations for transportation eligibility exist for child care locations but do not exist for religious instruction.
Statement C: TRANSPORTATION TO AFTER SCHOOL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION – REQUIREMENTS
The childcare location must be 1.5 miles from the school and within the attendance zone of the school your child attends. However, provision exists for transportation to childcare providers outside of the attendance zone of the student’s school that are licensed or registered under § 390 of the Social Services Law.
Statement C: TRANSPORTATION TO AFTER SCHOOL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION
Students who do not meet mileage eligibility for daily transportation may apply.”
“For transportation services for religious instruction, provisions/practices exist for students who are assigned to one route for home-to-school but must use another route for transportation for religious instruction, and provisions/practices exist for students who are not eligible for transportation services.”
“There are various deadlines for an application for transportation to a childcare location. There are no deadlines for an application for transportation for religious instruction.
TRANSPORTATION TO AFTER SCHOOL RELIGIOUS INSTRUCTION/D
The statement is made that “The school district will not incur additional expense to provide transportation to an after school religious program.”
“To what extent this is true is not known. There does not appear to be additional buses added for this purposes. However, there may be an effect of increasing the number of students assigned to a bus and increasing the length of the bus ride.”
“After school transportation services for birthday parties, dance lessons, music lessons, play dates, scout meetings, etc. are not frequently requested. As a result, they are intermittent as well as restricted. The transportation service for these types of activities is subject to room on the bus, and the bus does not deviate from its route. The student must be transportation eligible, and the student must utilize the same bus that he/she ordinarily rides.”
“Transportation for religious instruction appears to be a long standing practice. Its appropriateness is questionable.”
“There is no Policy or Administrative Regulation guideline on providing or not providing transportation services to/from child care locations. Although the School District’s Transportation Department is making available transportation services to/from child care locations within the context of the requirements of Education Law §3635(1)(e), such transportation is discretionary. The School District should have a POLICY that is supported by an Administrative Regulation exercising its discretion to provide transportation services to/from child care locations consistent with the requirements of Education Law.”
“The practice of providing afternoon transportation services for students in Grades K-5 for religious instruction is not supported by Policy and Administrative Regulation. The School District’s practice provides for such transportation within the elementary school attendance zone that a student attends and provides for transportation services from one zone to another zone. While TAS and the State Education Department feel the appropriateness of this practice is questionable, the practice has an impact upon the afternoon transportation program, and the School District should formalize the guidelines that exist through Policy and Regulation.”
“There are no guidelines for reviewing bus stops. Presently, it’s subjective. A recommendation is made that the School District adopts a procedure that uses an objective criteria for the determination of what is a safe or an unsafe bus stop.”
“In acceding to parental requests, as opposed to the placement of a bus stop within a school district’s guidelines and the use of an objective safety criterion.”
“The School District is not following the Education Commissioner’s rulings which have consistently stated that it is the parent’s responsibility to get the child to/from the bus stop safely.”
“Issues such as “I can’t see my child from my house”, “I have a younger child that I cannot leave”, “There’s a big dog on the way to the bus stop”, “Because there are no sidewalks in my area, the bus stop has to be in front of my house”, or “I’m unable to walk to the bus stop with my child due to my infirmaries” are not considered germane to where the bus stop is placed and how the bus traverses the route.”
“Although support for these types of requests provides a personal level of service and is considered responsive to the community, it can create a higher level of problems with routing and who gets what specialized service.”
“Frequent bus stops are very problematic. They interfere with traffic and sometimes encourage drivers behind the bus to try to get ahead of the bus; the chance of a rear-end collision is increased; when proceeding from one stop to the next, the driver needs time to activate the yellow warning flashers to alert motorists; the operation of the route is extended due to the frequency of students getting on or off the bus, or the number of students who can ride the bus is reduced due to the time allowed for the route.”
“Some clarification should exist that deals with special and/or temporary transportation arrangements to locations other than home or child care locations. By this is meant transportation of students to scout meetings, after school birthday parties of classmates, what is called play dates, work locations, and other non school activities, etc., this practice should be formalized with guidelines.”
Instruments and Sports Equipment
“There may be a need for a Policy on instruments, sports equipment, and other items on school buses. These can be particularly problematic since some of these items require the use of a seat or can be harmful to students in the event of an accident of misbehavior. A guideline of “what can be placed on your lap” is generally too subjective and unsatisfactory. There are school districts that have listed specific instruments that can be carried on a bus and those that cannot. A listing such as this should be supported by the Music Department and the transportation Contractor. Parents should also be informed of this list through the Music Department.”
This article is the third in a series. The last remaining article will report on RFPs and Contracts.
FOUR-PART SERIES ON SECRET TRANSPORTATION STUDY + SUMMARY + RELATED ARTICLE